Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Richard Durand - Always The Sun (Original TC Review)

Magik Muzik: 2009

(2019 Update:
Well. I certainly had a lot to say about this, huh. Never thought I'd ever listen to this again, but for some daft reason I kept the MP3 album, maybe for future reference. Then I embarked on my listening project, listened to this again, figuring it'd be the final time I'd subject myself to it. And now I've listened it again, for the sake of completism within this blog's archives. I've only myself to blame.

But enough about my sad-sack, what's ol' Durand been up to since? Quite a bit actually, that blatant 'I R Nu-Tiësto!" marketing taking the next logical step when he was handed the
In Search Of Sunrise DJ mix series after Mr. Verwest completely and fully abandoned trance for lucrative Vegas money. Naturally, the series saw diminishing returns with every volume, to such a point they started pairing him with other guest jocks (and BT). And now, he's no longer involved either, the latest edition featuring McProg's superstars of old in Marcus Schulz, Andy Moor, and Gabriel & Dresden. Durand also kept releasing albums, his latest coming out this past year, where he's apparently aged twenty since this one. Helps when you're not airbrushed into the Uncanny Valley.)


IN BRIEF: Gads…

The name Richard Durand (Richard van Schooneveld’s current alias) made quite the impression when it first broke out in the trance scene, although it wasn’t for a good reason. Rather, he’d briefly stolen the title of Needless Remixer Of Classics from Sean Tyas, though folks quickly realized that, aside from Toca’s Miracle, he was mostly just doing old Tiësto singles (he has made dubious remixes for classics by The Prodigy and Underworld since, however). The initial hate subsided, but there was this lingering feeling that something was still askew regarding this Durand fella’. For instance, why him? Who was he, exactly? Where did he come from? And, considering how much Mr. Verwest seemed to be giving him the thumbs-up, why were so many of his remixes and follow-up singles garnering incredibly divisive opinions? (the usual from “mesmerizing” to “torturous”, though typically “pointless” being the consensus)

To be honest, Durand’s ascent is remarkable when you consider what he was doing when the Big T saw something in him. Before then, he was carving out a niche sharing compilations with the likes of Scooter, Lasgo, and Klubbheads as G-Spott, releasing a stream of dodgy euro-dance with gratuitous supersaws. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because very little of his material ever left the realms of Dutch, with tracks appearing on equally dodgy releases going by names like 100% Eurotrance Vol. 4, Get Uppa And Dance 3, and Damn! 9. Then again, even the biggest titans of dance music had very humbling beginnings (Doot Doot, anyone?), so we shouldn’t hold Richard’s past against him. Or should we?

Let’s turn our attention to the release at hand, Mr. van Schooneveld’s debut ‘Richard Durand’ album Always The Sun. A change of artist names to something closer to one’s real name is a sure sign that ol’ Richard wants to be regarded as a Serious Producer now, with a muse that stretches well beyond his G-Spott legacy; smart career idea, to say the least. To back that up, he’s introduced more tech-trance attributes to his tracks, giving his productions a much tougher edge. Unfortunately, he’s also carried a lot of his generic cheese-dance baggage with him, such that it permeates much of his debut album. This wouldn’t be a horrible thing if he went into this tongue-in-cheek the way other over-the-top hard-trance acts like DuMonde often did, but he doesn’t - after all, this is the new, Serious Producer Richard Durand, not that silly G-Spott guy who was seen playing a synthesizer to CGI popcans in the video for N-R-G. (trust me, YouTube that shit!). I mean, just look at the intensity of that face in the cover!

He hopelessly fails. At damned near everything.

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, Sykonee, how can he really fail? I mean, so long as I can dance to it, right? Um… right?” That’s just it. I never thought I’d say this about standard 4/4 dance music, but Durand has actually managed to make tracks that are nigh on impossible to dance to. I’m not even talking about the usual overlong breakdown-build nonsense Dutch trance abuses - the song-writing itself lacks any sense of flow. When the rhythms, basslines, and synth-hooks are all in play, they sound horribly disjointed, creating this weird, herky-jerky momentum that saps the energy right out of your legs; it’s the sonic equivalent of walking on a railroad track. In fact, that’s exactly what it was like, as I couldn’t even get a decent walking groove going when I was listening to stuff like Papillon, Ancient Garden… hell, everything in the album's first half. I’m sure Durand’s defenders will point out that I’m not listening to his music in the proper context, that I should be hearing it blasting out of towers of speakers at clubs. Yet walking and dancing aren’t that dissimilar - both require a sense of rhythmic motion, and Durand’s music totally, utterly, fucking wrecks it when you try to move with. Then again, many of Durand’s fanbase considers dancing to be jumping in one spot with a fist in the air.

So yes, Durand has actually failed to make dance music that is danceable on a dance album. It gets worse though. For instance, are you still pining for more Anthem knock-offs? That track may be two years old now, but Durand seems intent at his piece of the melodramatic male-singer eurodance pie, and offers up two generic cuts: the titular track, and No Way Home. I actually didn’t mind vocalist Simon Binkenborn when I heard him on Leon Bolier’s album, but there he was featured on a track that was quite content to be light-weight eurodance fluff. On Durand’s album, however, it seems he’s been instructed to belt out his lyrics with all the overwrought raw emotion he can possibly muster - this is, after all, a Very Serious album. Predictably, the results are ridiculously over-the-top sap. Ah well, at least there weren’t any naff acoustic guitars this ti- wait, what’s this at the end of the album? A… melodramatic acoustic version of No Way Home? FFFFFUUUUUUU...

Although I could endlessly berate the first half of Always The Sun (like the hopelessly amateur sounding Divine, which desperately wants to be a profound opener; or the equally desperate Next Big Anthem Into Something), perhaps it’s about time I turn my attention to the second half. Here is where Durand’s corny super-trance takes full control, starting with a generic femme vocal trancer in City Never Sleeps and followed by Mouseville, an ultra supersaw epic trancer that sounds like a left-over System-F tune Corsten was embarrassed to release. The good news is Durand seems to have finally figured out how to get everything in his tracks working together, so you can actually dance to these. The bad news is he’s forgotten how to adequately mix his tracks together (did I mention this is a continuous mix album? Oops…). So, instead of fucked-up flow within his tunes, it’s now fucked-up flow between the tunes. Gah, can’t he do anything right?

As for the remainder tracks, they’re mostly serviceable tech-trance numbers, but much of their hinted potential awesome is too often squandered. The Trigger, for example, features the first instance on this album of a genuinely unique and nifty hook, a bleepy little thing that gets devilishly twisted as a buzzing sawwave spits and spurts in the background; it never takes off in any significant way, even when the two breakdown-builds suggest the track is ready to erupt. Instead, the standard beats are brought back in, and The Trigger gradually comes to an unremarkable end. As does the whole bloody album.

Call me flabbergasted. I cannot for the life of me figure out how this album saw a green-light at Tiësto’s label. Sure, we’ve handed out bad scores to them before, but it was for things like dull pop pandering or misguided experimentation. Durand’s album is none of this. It’s a euro-cornball hard-trance album trying to pass itself off as a Serious And Earnest collection of rough’n’ready tech-trance (watch the video for Always The Sun if you still don’t believe me), thus diluting the ‘stoopid-fun’ of the former while easily getting outclassed by the likes of Oliver Lieb, Marco V - hell, even Bolier - in the latter. Still, although Always The Sun has all the musical merit of a Special D. album, this probably won’t stop Durand’s career from continuing its rise - Tiësto’s mighty PR machine will see to that. The only thing that still eludes me is why Mr. Verwest would have given a cheesy Dutch hard-trance producer an opportunity like this in the first place. Perhaps Tiësto figures Durand’s success will give him the chance to resurrect Da Joker.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2009. © All rights reserved.


NOT TOTALLY BUNK TRACKS:
Chaos

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